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Concepcion: Eased face mask rules to help attract more tourists to Philippines

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Concepcion: Eased face mask rules to help attract more tourists to Philippines
In this July 11, 2022 photo, Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion talks to Rep. Sandro Marcos (Ilocos Norte) during a Go Negosyo gathering for leaders and representatives of top digital platforms at a bar in BGC, Taguig City.
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — Lifting the requirement to wear face masks outdoors will help boost tourism and highlight friendly Filipino smiles, businessman and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said even as many, including the Department of Health, have raised concerns over the move.

The Philippines moved to laxer mask rules after Cebu City issued an executive order in late August making face masks optional outdoors. The DOH said then that it was not yet time to lift the mask mandate but the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases later voted to recommend relaxing the rules, which President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. agreed to this week.

READ: Marcos OKs voluntary use of masks outdoors

"I know that many feel it is not the right time but when will be the right time? There could be a worse variant, so let us prepare but let's not overcompensate with restrictions that may no longer be practical," Concepcion, a member of the president's Private Sector Advisory Council, said in a statement to media.

Face masks will still be required indoors and in crowded area and Concepcion clarified that "we are still encouraging the use of face masks outdoors, especially for those who are at high risk, like the elderly, the immunocompromised, and especially the unvaccinated."

Citing data from an OCTA Research survey, Concepcion said 30% of Filipinos are seen to continue wearing masks even if the COVID-19 pandemic is delcared over and that many will still wear them outdoors even if doing so would be voluntary.

"How can you inspire confidence when if you go to a beach, you see everybody is still wearing a mask? How do you think foreign tourists will decide if they are made to choose between a destination that requires outdoor masking and one that does not?" Concepcion said as he backed the easing of mask rules.

"Tourism is one of our biggest advantages. Our warmth, our smiling people are our assets. We should not lose this advantage. We have so many MSMEs, especially in the provinces, who rely on tourism."

READ: Philippines extends COVID-19 state of calamity for emergency procurement, allowances

While he acknowledged concerns raised by doctors, Concepcion said that Filipinos should now see COVID-19 "like the flu." 

As of Monday, the Philippines had recorded 15,379 additional COVID-19 cases since the previous tally a week ago.

The country’s average daily infections were at 2,197 from September 5 to 11. There were 727 severe and critical patients in hospitals, which represented 9.6% of the country’s total COVID-19 admissions.

Data from the DOH showed that 23.9% of 2,485 beds in intensive care units across the country were utilized as of last Sunday, while 28.2% of 5,925 non-ICU beds were occupied.

The DOH also verified 300 fatalities in the past week. Of those, 21 deaths occurred on August 19 to September 11. — with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

FACE MASKS

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